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Frustrated Lawmakers Eye Banning OxyContin

May 4, 2005 | www.boston.com

Exasperated by the response of OxyContin drug maker Purdue Pharma, lawmakers are weighing an outright ban of the prescription chronic pain pill as the addiction crisis and resulting overdoses take a tragic toll on Bay State families.

``The committee is definitely reviewing a proposal to ban OxyContin because of the devastating effects it is having on our society,'' said Sen. Steven A. Tolman (D-Brighton), co-chairman of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee.

But Allan Must, a representative from Purdue Pharma, told lawmakers this week that the OxyContin time-release tablet, if taken properly, is helping patients with AIDS, cancer and other diseases.

``In bills dealing with the illegal abuse of this medication, we have to make sure that we don't do things that are not going to allow legitimate chronic pain patients not to get their medication,'' Must said.

Rep. Ruth B. Balser (D-Newton), the House chairwoman of the substance abuse committee, agreed, saying, ``We have to maintain access for people who have legitimate medical reasons.''

However, Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston) said, ``If I had my way, I would ban it tomorrow. And maybe we can. We're certainly going to look at it.''

Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley told lawmakers that in her county alone last year, 76 people overdosed on prescription drugs.

Must faced tough questioning from Tolman and Wallace this week during a daylong hearing after he touted his company's ``Painfully Obvious'' prescription drug abuse prevention campaign for middle-schoolers.

One poster reads, ``Scalding hot bacon fat should not be used as after shave and explosive diarrhea caused by prescription drug abuse ruins pants.''

``This is the worst rubbish I have ever seen in my life,'' Tolman told Must.

Wallace said, ``Why don't you have a mother and a father standing over a grave? Say this is what's going to happen if you take OxyContin.''

A legislative OxyContin task force is preparing to hold a hearing May 23 at Framingham State College.


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